How to Choose a Side Project
Side projects give you autonomy, sharpen your skills, and teach you valuable lessons about building and shipping products.
They can also be uniquely challenging. In most companies, your work is decided by someone else. If you do want to build something, it's helpful to define your end goals. Mine usually fall into one of two buckets.
Learn something new
Deliberate practice is the key to learning new skills. When I was in college I spent every day for 150 days creating a design based off a chapter in the book of Psalms. Forcing myself to create and post something every day made me a much better visual designer. Initially, it was embarrassing putting out bad work, The rate of embarrassing content decreased as I went on.
If you decide to go this route don't be too focused on impressing others. Focus on getting your work out there with consistency.
Build something useful
Side projects are great places to test business ideas.
Even if you aren't interested in starting a business it's an amazing experience releasing a product you had full control over. You end up sharpening your technical skills, marketing chops, product design, and documentation habits.
These types of side projects are much more interesting if they are solving a real problem. Build something you need yourself, or something you know a lot of other people need.